Bulgarian land sale ban risks EU sanction
24.10.13 @ 09:25
BRUSSELS - Bulgaria’s ultra-nationalist party Ataka has convinced more moderate Bulgarian legislators to extend a ban on the sale of land to foreigners in contravention of EU rules.
The moratorium bans the sale of agricultural land to EU citizens and businesses. EU accession rules require Bulgaria to lift the ban in order to open up the market by 1 January 2014.
On Wednesday (23 October), Bulgarian lawmakers voted to extend the moratorium until 2020 in line with a resolution put forward by the far-right party, according to Bulgarian media reports.
Chantal Hughes, spokesperson for the European Commission’s internal market, said that after the January date “normal free movement of capital rules come back and start to be operational.”
She said some restrictions may still be permissible but need to be proportional and justified under normal treaty rules.
Bulgaria, under the accession treaty rules, would have to first find agreement from all the member states if it wants to maintain the ban.
“It hasn’t been done before on these issues,” she noted.
Asked about the possible implications of keeping the ban, Hughes said the commission would not pronounce itself officially on the ruling because it is not a formal legal act by the government.
But Wednesday’s motion found wide support by both the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party and the opposition centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, Gerb.
Some 171 Bulgarian deputies in the 240 seated chamber voted in its favour with 12 abstentions. Thirty-eight voted against, reports Novinite.
Bulgaria’s president says the parliament’s decision is counter-productive and would end up costing the Bulgarian taxpayer.
“It will deflect investors and its price will be paid by Bulgarian taxpayers. You are well aware that such decisions are penalised under a special procedure by the EU,” he is quoted as saying by Focus News Agency.
The president said the government’s legal services would be looking into the issue over the next few days.
He added: “I believe it is absolutely unproductive and unwell for a country to give up on its priorities.”
Ataka, which obtained 23 seats in the parliament after the summer election, is known for its virulent anti-Turk and anti-Muslim rhetoric.